Friday 20 July 2012

Daily Cycling Facts 20.07.12

Giovanni Lombardi
Giovanni Lombardi
Born in Pavia on this day in 1969, Giovanni Lombardi suffered from the same problem that many sprinters suffer from today - in almost any other era, he'd have been the best in the world. Whereas modern sprinters are eclipsed by the incredible talent of Mark Cavendish, Lombardi found himself unable to compete with Erik Zabel and the might Mario Cipollini. A sufficiently wise man to realise that his skills could be put to good and productive use even if he was unlikely to ever attain the glory he's undoubtedly have liked, he ended a five-year stint with Italian teams in 1997 and went to Telekom to become Zabel's lead-out man. In return, the team supported him when opportunity arose for him to win, which he did with respectable regularity during the five years he spent with them - including stages at the Volta a Catalunya, the Österreich Rundfahrt, Bicicleta Vasca, Tirreno–Adriatico, the Vuelta a España, the Ronde van Nederland, the Vuelta a Burgos and the Danmark Rundt.

In 2002, he received what was then the ultimate accolade for any lead-out man in the form of an invitation to join Cipollini's Acqua e Sapone, and with them he won another stage at the Vuelta a Espana, two more at the Giro d'Italia and others at the Tour de Romandie, Tour Méditerranéen and Vuelta a Aragón. However, by 2003 Cipollini's powers were already fading; so after two more seasons working for the Lion King Lombardi moved on to Bjarne Riis' CSC team in Denmark and a new job leading out Ian Basso and Carlos Sastre. He was an instrumental part in Basso's second place at the Tour and overall victory at the Giro as well as in Sastre's second place overall and third in the Points competition in 2005, the year in which Lombardi was the only rider to complete all three Grand Tours.

Born in Kortezubi, Basque Country on this day in 1960, Federico Echave won stages in a variety of smaller stage races, then took Stage 5 at the 1985 Vuelta a Espana. Two years later he achieved the greatest ride of his life, one that any rider would love to have on his palmares: Stage 20, finishing at the summit of Alpe d'Huez, at the Tour de France. Another few years of stage wins in less prestigious races followed, then he came 6th and 5th overall at the Vuelta a Espana and Giro d'Italia respectively in 1990. In 1992 he was fifth at the Vuelta, but then began to fade away - another rider who got close enough to see the very top level of the sport, but could never quite get there.

On this day in 1985, John Kennedy Howard set a motor-paced bicycle speed record of 245kph at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. It would not be bettered for ten years.

Cyclists born on this day: Peter Smessaert (USA, 1908, died 2000); Volker Winkler (East Germany, 1957); Washington Díaz (Uruguay, 1954); Károly Teppert (Hungary, 1891).

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